Combs Spouts Off

"It's my opinion and it's very true."

  • Calendar

    August 2020
    S M T W T F S
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    3031  
  • Recent Posts

  • Tag Cloud

  • Archives

Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

Return of the Bush Doctrine

Posted by Richard on March 6, 2011

Charles Krauthammer nailed it on Friday, pointing out that some of the same people who denounced the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime are now clamoring for the West to do something about Moammar Gaddafi, a far less murderous and dangerous tyrant:

A strange moral inversion, considering that Hussein's evil was an order of magnitude beyond Gaddafi's. Gaddafi is a capricious killer; Hussein was systematic. Gaddafi was too unstable and crazy to begin to match the Baathist apparatus: a comprehensive national system of terror, torture and mass murder, gassing entire villages to create what author Kanan Makiya called a "Republic of Fear."

No matter the hypocritical double standard. Now that revolutions are sweeping the Middle East and everyone is a convert to George W. Bush's freedom agenda, it's not just Iraq that has slid into the memory hole. Also forgotten is the once proudly proclaimed "realism" of Years One and Two of President Obama's foreign policy – the "smart power" antidote to Bush's alleged misty-eyed idealism.

It began on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first Asia trip, when she publicly played down human rights concerns in China. The administration also cut aid for democracy promotion in Egypt by 50 percent. And cut civil society funds – money for precisely the organizations we now need to help Egyptian democracy – by 70 percent.

This new realism reached its apogee [I'd say its nadir] with Obama's reticence and tardiness in saying anything in support of the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran. On the contrary, Obama made clear that nuclear negotiations with the discredited and murderous regime (talks that a child could see would go nowhere) took precedence over the democratic revolutionaries in the street – to the point where demonstrators in Tehran chanted, "Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them."

There was a telling moment in Libya the other day, when rebels begged for Bush

Now that revolution has spread from Tunisia to Oman, however, the administration is rushing to keep up with the new dispensation, repeating the fundamental tenet of the Bush Doctrine that Arabs are no exception to the universal thirst for dignity and freedom.

Now, it can be argued that the price in blood and treasure that America paid to establish Iraq's democracy was too high. But whatever side you take on that question, what's unmistakable is that to the Middle Easterner, Iraq today is the only functioning Arab democracy, with multiparty elections and the freest press. Its democracy is fragile and imperfect – last week, security forces cracked down on demonstrators demanding better services – but were Egypt to be as politically developed in, say, a year as is Iraq today, we would think it a great success.

For Libyans, the effect of the Iraq war is even more concrete. However much bloodshed they face, they have been spared the threat of genocide. Gaddafi was so terrified by what we did to Saddam & Sons that he plea-bargained away his weapons of mass destruction. For a rebel in Benghazi, that is no small matter.

Yet we have been told incessantly how Iraq poisoned the Arab mind against America. Really? Where is the rampant anti-Americanism in any of these revolutions? …

It's Yemen's president and the delusional Gaddafi who are railing against American conspiracies to rule and enslave. The demonstrators in the streets of Egypt, Iran and Libya have been straining their eyes for America to help. …

Facebook and Twitter have surely mediated this pan-Arab (and Iranian) reach for dignity and freedom. But the Bush Doctrine set the premise.

While his critics were making sneering jokes about My Pet Goat, George W. Bush was reading Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy and embracing the transformational power of liberty. How many bloody Middle East dictatorships must fall before he's awarded a Nobel Peace Prize?

Who am I kidding? There aren't enough murderous dictatorships in the world for that to happen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pipes is becoming optimistic!

Posted by Richard on March 1, 2011

When Natan Sharansky expressed cautious optimism about events in Egypt about a month ago, those of us who read The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror weren't exactly shocked. But when Daniel Pipes, of all people, writes a column entitled "My Optimism on the New Arab Revolt," that's a real surprise. And a must read. Here's the nut:

The revolts over the past two months have been largely constructive, patriotic, and open in spirit. Political extremism of any sort, leftist or Islamist, has been largely absent from the streets. Conspiracy theories have been the refuge of decayed rulers, not exuberant crowds. The United States, Great Britain, and Israel have been conspicuously absent from the sloganeering. (Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi blamed unrest in his country on al-Qaeda spreading hallucinogenic drugs.)

One has the sense that the past century’s extremism — tied to such figures as Amin al-Husseini, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ruhollah Khomeini, Yasser Arafat, and Saddam Hussein — has run its course, that populations seek something more mundane and consumable than rhetoric, rejectionism, and backwardness.

Pessimism serves as a career enhancer in Middle East studies and I am known for doom-and-gloom. But, with due hesitation, I see changes that could augur a new era, one in which infantilized Arabic speakers mature into adults. One rubs one’s eyes at this transformation, awaiting its reversal. So far, however, it has held.

Perhaps the most genial symbol of this maturation is the pattern of street demonstrators cleaning up after themselves. No longer are they wards of the state dependent on it for services; of a sudden, they are citizens with a sense of civic responsibility.

I, too, was struck by the demonstrators cleaning up Cairo's Tahrir Square. It reminded me of our Tea Party rallies. At every Tea Party rally I'm aware of, the attendees picked up all the trash afterward and left the place cleaner than before. Compare that to any leftist gathering (for example, see here and here).

When I saw a news clip of Egyptians cleaning up the square, I did a little fist pump and exclaimed "Yesss!" This is how people who see themselves as citizens, not subjects, behave. They embrace both freedom and personal responsibility. 

I share Pipes' and Sharansky's cautious optimism, and I consider these spontaneous, self-directed cleanup efforts as a very hopeful sign. Three cheers for "the transformational power of liberty"!

(Dare I say it again? I blame Bush! It was he who told the Washington press corps , "If you want a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy read Natan Sharansky's book, The Case for Democracy." It was he who talked about a "freedom deficit" in the Middle East and predicted that the example of a liberated and democratic Iraq could trigger change throughout the region. It seems that prediction is coming true. Who knew that Chimpy McBushitler was so prescient?)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sharansky hopeful about Egypt

Posted by Richard on February 5, 2011

The Wall Street Journal's David Feith interviewed Natan Sharansky about recent events in Egypt and other Arab dictatorships, and found him neither as surprised nor as pessimistic as most of the so-called experts:

"The reason people are going to the streets and making revolution is their desire not to live in a fear society," Mr. Sharansky says. In his taxonomy, the world is divided between "fear societies" and "free societies," with the difference between them determinable by what he calls a "town square test": Are the people in a given society free to stand in their town square and express their opinions without fear of arrest or physical harm? The answer in Tunisia and Egypt, of course, has long been "no"—as it was in the Soviet bloc countries that faced popular revolutions in 1989.

This idea is the animating feature of a worldview that bucks much conventional wisdom. Uprisings like Tunisia's and Egypt's, he says, make "specialists—Sovietologists, Arabists—say 'Who could have thought only two weeks ago that this will happen?'" But "look at what Middle Eastern democratic dissidents were saying for all these years about the weakness of these regimes from the inside," and you won't be surprised when they topple, he says.

Sharansky doesn't buy the idea that propping up tyrants like Mubarak is the only way to prevent Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood from taking over. He argues that the longer Mubark remains in power, the more the Brotherhood becomes the only strong, well-organized opposition poised to take over. Better that the dictator should go now, with the streets largely filled with people yearning for freedom and democracy, not radical Islamists.

Sharansky wants the US to adopt a policy of "linkage," as it did with the Soviet Union in 1974:

If he were a U.S. senator, Mr. Sharansky says, he would immediately introduce a law to continue support to Egypt on condition that "20% of all this money goes to strengthening and developing democratic institutions. And the money cannot be controlled by the Egyptian government." Ideally his measure would kick in as soon as possible, so that it can affect the incentives of any Egyptian transitional government established to rule until September, when a presidential election is scheduled.

Sharansky thinks President Obama's response on Egypt is improving daily and is certainly much better than his response to the 2009 Iranian revolution: 

… By his reckoning, the Obama administration's position during the recent Iranian protests was "maybe one of the biggest betrayals of people's freedom in modern history. . . . At the moment when millions were deciding whether to go to the barricades, the leader of the free world said 'For us, the most important thing is engagement with the regime, so we don't want a change of regime.' Compared to this, there is very big progress [today]."

Inconsistency is par for the course in this field. "From time to time," Mr. Sharansky says of the George W. Bush administration, "America was giving lectures about democracy." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave a strong address in Cairo in 2005. And in 2002, by threatening to withhold $130 million in aid to Egypt, the administration successfully pressured Mr. Mubarak to release the sociologist and democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim from prison. In their final years, however, administration officials reverted to bureaucratic form and relaxed their pressure drastically.

Condoleezza RiceEarlier this week, I recalled Condi's marvelous 2005 speech in Cairo and some of Bush's finest moments speaking about "the transformational power of liberty." But by 2006, with things going badly in Iraq and his popularity tanking, Bush pretty much gave up on the one thing he got right

President Obama relaxed it even further, Mr. Sharansky notes, inserting only vague language about democracy into his June 2009 address in Cairo. "There was no mention at all that at that  moment democratic dissidents were imprisoned, that Mubarak had put in prison the leading [opposition] candidate in the past election," Ayman Nour.

Much needs to change in Egypt, Sharansky concedes, before it can become a free society, but he believes those changes can and must begin now: 

Even if the U.S. embraces linkage, Egypt's September election could be quite problematic. "Only when the basic institutions that protect a free society are firmly in place—such as a free press, the rule of law, independent courts, political parties—can free elections be held," Mr. Sharansky wrote in "The Case for Democracy." In Egypt, those "free, developed institutions," he tells me, "will not be developed by September."

What can develop over the next eight months, Mr. Sharansky says, is a U.S. policy making clear that "whoever is elected cannot continue to survive—he cannot continue to rely on the assistance of the free world in defense, economics, anything—if democratic reforms are not continued and if democratic institutions are not built." After several years of such democracy-building, he says, when dissidents like Mr. Ibrahim enjoy the ability to build institutions like trade unions and women's organizations, "then in a few years you'll have a different country, and you can have really free elections."

Read the whole thing. Then let your congresscritters know that you support Sharansky's proposal for aid linkage. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The transformational power of liberty

Posted by Richard on February 2, 2011

First, Tunisia. Now, Egypt. And other Middle East autocrats have taken notice. The "transformational power of liberty" is on the move in the Middle East:

Once invincible, a Mideast autocrat is close to finished. Egypt's longtime President Hosni Mubarak is fading fast after a week of inspired street protests. And the shock waves are spreading out as his rule weakens.

The 82-year-old leader now is offering not to run for re-election later this year. It's a too-little, too-late gesture to mollify masses of Egyptians who are demanding that he depart and give new leadership a chance.

Underscoring Mubarak's final moments is another reality: His longtime ally, the United States, is giving a firm shove after initial hestitation. "We hear your voices," President Obama said in a Tuesday message to the demonstrators. The transition "must begin now," he added.

It's an earthshaking moment for the Mideast. The region's biggest country, viewed as one of the most stable, is on the brink of democratic change. And it was created by widespread, homegrown protests, not a bloody coup or outside force.

First came the demise of Tunisia's corrupt government, an act that touched off a similar surge in Egypt that Mubarak was unable to quell. One telling moment was an assurance from the independent-minded military that it would not use force against citizens taking to the streets.

The looming downfall of Mubarak could send reverberations throughout the Mideast. Jordan's King Hussein raced to get in front of similar protests in his country by firing his Cabinet. Other leaders might scramble to stay in power as the Mideast glimpses a chance for democracy. A turning point is at hand.

I blame Bush. This is from an October 2005 post, "The one thing Bush gets right":

Bush spoke at length about the fifth point, and his commitment to "the transformational power of liberty" remains solid. He singled out Egypt and Saudi Arabia as "friends" whom we're encouraging to reform and to "respect the rights and choices of their own people." He pointedly added:  

… We're standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes, because we know that the dissidents of today will be the democratic leaders of tomorrow. We're making our case through public diplomacy, stating clearly and confidently our belief in self-determination, and the rule of law, and religious freedom, and equal rights for women, beliefs that are right and true in every land, and in every culture.

Bush closed, as he so often does, with a restatement of his commitment to and confidence in liberty:

Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision — and they end up alienating decent people across the globe. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure — until those societies collapse in corruption and decay. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that free men and women are weak and decadent — until the day that free men and women defeat them.

We don't know the course of our own struggle — the course our own struggle will take — or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice. We do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history. And we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail.

I also blame Natan Sharansky (as channeled by Bush). Also Condi and her 2005 speech in Cairo. And Tony Blair.

I'm optimistic and hopeful about the wave of transformational liberty sweeping across the Middle East. Arab Muslims have a strong yearning for democracy. Yes, there's a danger that radical Islamists will gain power in democratic elections. But as I noted years ago regarding Iraq, even such an outcome would be a short-lived victory for radical Islam:

It's a crucial idea that the Islamofascists seem to understand clearly, but the critics and pessimists just don't get: once the vast majority of the people buy into the concept of democratic government — even a Sharia-based or Shia-dominated democratic government — the reactionary theology of the Islamofascists has already lost. Their version of Islam can't tolerate people choosing, period — even if you make the "right" choice, the very idea that it's up to you to decide between competing ideas undermines their entire belief system and will eventually destroy it. 

Years ago, I argued that the Bush Doctrine is a long shot, but it's the best option we have. Now, it just may be working. Best wishes to the freedom-loving people of Egypt, Tunisia, and the other autocratic nations of that region.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Congratulations, Iraqis!

Posted by Richard on March 8, 2010

Hearty congratulations to the brave people of Iraq! Once again, they risked life and limb to flock to the polling stations. Al Qaeda promised to disrupt the election, and there were indeed a number of violent attacks. But the people of Iraq were determined to choose their own government and could not be deterred even by threat of death:

It takes a cynical mind not to share in the achievement of Iraq's national elections. Bombs and missiles, al Qaeda threats and war fatigue failed to deter millions of Iraqis of all sects and regions from exercising a right that is rare in the Arab world. Even the U.N.'s man in Baghdad called the vote "a triumph."

On Sunday, 61% of eligible voters came out in Anbar Province, a former extremist stronghold that includes the towns of Fallujah and Ramadi. In the last national elections five years ago, 3,375 people—or 2%—voted in Anbar. The other Sunni-dominated provinces that boycotted in 2005 saw similar numbers: over 70% turnout in Diyala and Salaheddin and 67% in Nineveh, all higher than the national average of 62%. American Presidential elections rarely have such turnout.

Al Qaeda as well as Sunni and Shiiite extremist groups were defeated militarily by the surge, and this election continues the trend toward settling disputes through politics, not bombs. The remaining terrorists, far weaker and organized in smaller cells, tried hard to deter voting. Thirty-eight people died in various mortar, rocket and bomb attacks on election day. But the attackers had trouble getting near voting stations, and security in Baghdad and elsewhere was good and Iraqis brushed off these threats.

The election result itself is up for grabs and won't be known for several days. Incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki needs to build a new coalition with skeptical Shiite and Kurd parties. Though Shiite himself, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi attracted Sunni votes to his nationalist secular block. The Kurdish coalition may split.

But the very uncertainty about the results is a sign of democracy's advance, and the drama won't go unnoticed in a Middle East where the victories are always landslides for the ruling party. The contrast with Iran's stolen 2009 vote couldn't be more dramatic, and even Al-Jazeera ran special coverage around the clock.

With the help and protection of coalition forces led by the U.S., Iraqis first voted in free elections a little over five years ago. On December 15, 2005, Iraq became the first constitutional republic in the Arab world, a truly momentous event that will hopefully lead to profound changes in that region in the future.

Yesterday, they reaffirmed their commitment to a democratic form of government. My hat's off to the people of Iraq for the courage and commitment they've shown and to the United States Armed Forces for making this possible. 

And to George W. Bush for believing that democracy and freedom are transformative

Iraqi woman with purple finger and tear in her eye

(Photo is from 2005. See this post.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The people are supposed to listen, not speak

Posted by Richard on August 14, 2009

If you're waiting to hear what the citizens of Montana and western Colorado have to say to their President about health care, don't hold your breath. What press secretary Robert Gibbs called a "conversation" in New Hampshire the other day was a decidedly one-sided conversation:

Much has been made of the chance for true, interactive democracy offered by the freewheeling town hall format that lawmakers are using in health care forums across the country. 

But what the White House is calling a "town hall meeting" does not quite follow in the tradition of the public-driven forums that sprouted centuries ago in New England. 

It's more like a press conference for the public. 

In an orderly fashion, selected members of the audience pose brief questions, and the president elaborates. 

And elaborates. And elaborates. 

A look at President Obama's health care "town hall" Tuesday in Portsmouth, N.H., shows the president out-spoke his audience by a ratio of nearly 9-to-1. 

Here's the scorecard. 

Obama: 8,619 words. 

Audience: 1,186 words. 

That's hardly the kind of even-handed exchange of ideas that marked the town meetings of colonial America.

The President's attitude appears to be, "If I want your opinion, I'll give it to you."

Contrast that with what sounds like an excellent, productive town hall meeting by Indiana Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly: 

Two hours before Mr. Donnelly's scheduled arrival Wednesday in Kokoma, 75 people were lined up for 72 seats. By the meeting's start time of 6 p.m., the number had swelled to about 500. Mr. Donnelly's staff plunked speakers in the parking lot outside the meeting room and, microphone in hand, the lawmaker waded into the opinionated and skeptical crowd to field questions. With the exception of some brief asides about energy and the climate bill, the topic never strayed from the proposed health-care overhaul.

"I have not stated a position on this one way or another," Mr. Donnelly said as he introduced himself and welcomed constituents. He added that he favored some sort of cost-neutral overhaul that would cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. "I wanted to come home for a month and get a chance…to hear what everyone has to say," he said.

"To hear what everyone has to say" — what a refreshing and welcome thing for a representative of the people to do.

A number of people carried signs supporting an overhaul. But the majority of questioners voiced strong skepticism about handing more responsibility for health care to the government.

"I just want to know, when do these entitlements stop?" asked Ron Ammerman, a 35-year-old who has been laid off from his job as a splicer for AT&T Corp. He was the first to take the microphone and earned applause. "I'm responsible for myself and I'm not responsible for other people. I should get the fruits of my labor and I shouldn't have to divvy it up with other people."

Amen, Ammerman!

Questioners were chosen at random by Mr. Donnelly as he walked through a crowd of mostly older people, many of whom wore baseball hats and sunglasses to keep the setting sun out of their eyes. There were a few men in union T-shirts, but no obvious organized groups attempting to fill the meeting with questioners from one side or the other.

A few people spoke up in favor of revamping the current system, including one woman who warned of the power of private insurers.

Another woman said she was unable to wade through the Veterans Affairs bureaucracy to get her husband help before he died.

"Because of government paperwork he never got the assistance he needed," Lynnette Hammond said as she began to cry.

The anger that has settled around similar events in other states never hit Mr. Donnelly, who deftly parried complaints about too much government with questions about which entitlements the audience would be willing to sacrifice.

The anger didn't hit Rep. Donnelly because unlike so many of his peers, he was actually there to listen, and he gave his constituents every opportunity to be heard. He engaged in a true conversation.

"If [reform] doesn't work, it screws up an awful lot," he said. "But the other thing I want to ask is, of those with Medicare, how many want to give it up? That's why we need some kind of reform."

Aaron Williford, 35, a landscaper, said he was troubled by the amount of money the federal government was spending. "I see the federal government is like an individual that maxes out one credit card then goes out and gets another," he said.

Now that, folks, is democracy in action. Bravo, Rep. Donnelly! Good job!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Victory for freedom in Honduras

Posted by Richard on August 8, 2009

According to Investor's Business Daily, the Obama administration has abandoned its effort to destroy freedom and democracy in Honduras (emphasis added):

In a welcome about-face, the State Department told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in a letter Tuesday that the U.S. would no longer threaten sanctions on Honduras for ousting its president, Mel Zelaya, last June 28.

Nor will it insist on Zelaya's return to power. As it turns out, the U.S. Senate can't find any legal reason why the Honduran Supreme Court's refusal to let Zelaya stay in office beyond the time allowed by Honduran law constitutes a "military coup."

Things could have worked out differently. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez first called for invading Honduras. That threat passed as it became clear Chavez couldn't project his power there.

Next, civil unrest was threatened by Zelaya. But Hondurans astounded the world by standing by their Congress, Supreme Court, attorney general, businesses and the church, all of which declared that Zelaya had violated the constitution and had to go.

Zelaya might have regained power, but only by becoming a dictator and ending Honduras' democracy. The people ended that.

The scariest outcome for Honduras was U.S. sanctions. They would have crushed the tiny country dependent on the U.S. for 80% of its trade. No sanctions, no Zelaya.

This isn't to say U.S. policymakers are happy or that the dispute is over. Honduras is still suspended from the Organization of American States, its trade has been disrupted, Venezuela's oil is still cut off, and its officials still can't get U.S. visas. But the worst is over. Whatever changes that come will be by Honduran consent alone.

So with great reluctance, the Obama administration has decided to stop siding with Venezuela's Chavez and Cuba's Castro in their effort to subvert freedom and democracy in Honduras. Thanks, guys, for small favors. Any chance that you'll support democrats over autocrats in other places and times?

I'm not optimistic, since you just acknowledged Ahm-a-doin-a-jihad as the legitimate elected leader of Iran — or did you

Anyway, hearty congratulations to the brave people of Honduras!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

At least some people are supporting democracy in Honduras

Posted by Richard on July 10, 2009

The Obama administration, which could hardly be bothered to comment on the brutal repression and slaughter in Iran, was quick to interfere in the internal affairs of Honduras. Immediately after would-be President-for-Life Manuel Zelaya was (quite legally) removed from office, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton allied the U.S. with leftist thugs like Castro, Chavez, Ortega, and the dictators who control the United Nations in efforts to overturn the will of the Honduran people and subvert their constitutional democracy.

Seventeen senators have sent a letter to Clinton objecting to the administration's one-sided support of Zelaya and disregard for Honduran law. Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson praised the letter (emphasis added): 

“These 17 Senators deserve the praise of all who believe in the rule of law, and the people of Honduras deserve the support of all Americans who value freedom and democratic, constitutional rule,” Wilson added.

Yesterday, an urgent letter was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to meet with the current government of Honduras, stating [PDF], “While you have already met with Mr. Zelaya, we find it discouraging that you are unwilling to meet with Honduran officials that have simply followed their constitution.”

The letter was sent by Senators Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), David Vitter (R-Louisiana), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), John Ensign (R-Nevada), Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky), Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska), Kit Bond (R-Missouri), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), James Risch (R-Idaho), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), John Thune (R-South Dakota), and Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama).

Attached to the letter are the charges that were filed against former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya by the Attorney General of Honduras, Luis Alberto Rubi, to the Supreme Court of Honduras. Also attached is the order by the court to arrest Zelaya for “acting against the established form of government, treason against the country, abuse of authority, and usurpation of power in detriment of the public administration and of the State of Honduras.”

“The official documents of the Honduran Attorney General and Supreme Court, along with the vote of their Congress to impeach and remove Manuel Zelaya from office, prove irrefutably that Zelaya was properly removed from power in accordance with the Honduran Constitution,” said Wilson.

Of the 370-odd articles in Honduras' 27-year-old constitution, seven are protected from amendment or repeal. One of those, Article 239, limits the President to one term and calls for the immediate removal from office of any official who attempts to violate that provision or even proposes that it be changed. Octavio Sánchez explained the reason for this: 

Continuismo – the tendency of heads of state to extend their rule indefinitely – has been the lifeblood of Latin America's authoritarian tradition. The Constitution's provision of instant sanction might sound draconian, but every Latin American democrat knows how much of a threat to our fragile democracies continuismo presents. In Latin America, chiefs of state have often been above the law. The instant sanction of the supreme law has successfully prevented the possibility of a new Honduran continuismo.

The Supreme Court and the attorney general ordered Zelaya's arrest for disobeying several court orders compelling him to obey the Constitution. He was detained and taken to Costa Rica. Why? Congress needed time to convene and remove him from office. With him inside the country that would have been impossible. This decision was taken by the 123 (of the 128) members of Congress present that day.

The Supreme Court and Congress did not act hastily. They ordered the military to arrest Zelaya only after he personally led a mob that broke into a government warehouse. The mob seized the ballots that were confiscated to prevent Zelaya from holding an illegal "referendum" to abrogate the constitution — ballots, by the way, that were provided to him by Hugo Chavez. (I wonder how many of them had been conveniently pre-marked. I wonder if Jimmy Carter was scheduled to vouch for the outcome of the voting.)

Don't believe the coup myth. The Honduran military acted entirely within the bounds of the Constitution. The military gained nothing but the respect of the nation by its actions.

I am extremely proud of my compatriots. Finally, we have decided to stand up and become a country of laws, not men. From now on, here in Honduras, no one will be above the law.

I am extremely disturbed by the behavior of my government in toward Honduras. It's attempting to coerce that sovereign nation into returning to power a leftist thug who tried to overturn the country's constitution and who was legally removed from office in order to preserve democratic government and the rule of law. 

It seems that at every possible opportunity — Israel, Iran, Honduras — the Obama administration has either turned its back on or actively opposed the forces of democracy and freedom.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tiananmen in Tehran II

Posted by Richard on June 25, 2009

I invoked the memory of Tiananmen Square last week. I may have been premature. Apparently, the suppression of dissent in Tehran became a true massacre today.

Guns, clubs, and axes. Axes!

They were especially targeting the women, because women are "the greatest threat to the regime."

These are the monsters with whom we're supposed to resolve our differences by sitting down with them and talking??

I'm beyond outrage. I'm beyond grief. I'm beyond words. Go. Look. Think.

(HT: Vodkapundit)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Appalled and outraged … at last

Posted by Richard on June 23, 2009

More than a week after every major European leader (aren't we supposed to take our cues from the Europeans?), President Obama has finally strongly condemned the brutal repression of dissent in Iran. He's ten days late, but better late than never:

After days of criticism from Republicans, Mr. Obama opened a White House news conference saying he was "appalled and outraged" by the threats and confrontations in the streets of the Iranian capital. He declined to confirm whether a U.S. offer of direct talks with Iran will still stand, instead saying he would wait to see how the postelection crisis there "plays itself out."

"In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to the peaceful pursuit of justice," Mr. Obama said. "The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost."

Very good, Mr. President. Very good indeed. Now why was that so difficult? 

It wasn't as forceful as Reagan's support of the Solidarity movement in 1981, but it's a start. Now if only the Iranian people had a Lech Walesa to lead them instead of that mullah-approved sorry excuse for a "reform candidate," Mousavi.

UPDATE: The Spirit of Man and Foundation for Democracy in Iran (June 23, Update 1) had very different reactions than mine. I wasn't aware that Iranian diplomats had been invited to an Independence Day barbecue at the White House and that the invitation still stands. Now I'm appalled. I take back my mild praise — it appears to be undeserved.

UPDATE 2 (6/24): The Independence Day invitation wasn't to a White House event, but to numerous July 4th events at American embassies and consulates around the world. Apparently faced with growing outrage and disbelief, the White House has finally rescinded the invitation. It wasn't exactly an act of great moral courage, since exactly zero Iranian diplomats had accepted the invitation. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What you can do to help the people of Iran

Posted by Richard on June 16, 2009

The struggle for freedom and democracy continues in Iran (as it always will, anywhere and everywhere that the human spirit yearns to be free). Winston of The Spirit of Man is asking for your help:

I have been asked by so many people today again about how they can help the people of Iran in their quest for democracy and freedom. I have had calls from as far as Holland. This is what I think any decent human being can do to help further the cause of liberty in Iran:

In the United States: Get on the phones. Call your US Congressmen/women and demand they issue statements in support of the Iranian people. Remind them of Iran Freedom Support Act of 2005. Make sure to be polite and courteous. Call your senators and demand they be tough with the regime.

In Canada, UK, Holland & other European countries: Call your respective Members of Parliament. Demand they press their respective governments not to negotiate with the Iranian regime. Be polite and ask them kindly to issue statements in support of the people of Iran's quest for democracy and liberty. You can call or write to your media and ask them to cover the Iranian regime's brutal crackdown of the peaceful protests in any way they can. This is a media war. This is the information war. All of you regardless of your location can spread the word. The regime fears nothing like information. That's all I can think of now but if you've comments or suggestions, please share them with me.

You can find local pro-freedom rallies arranged by Iranian expats in your town/city and show up as a sign of support. Trust me, it is very heart warming for Iranians to see you care. All of us need to be encouraged and I am sure your presence provides that for those who are fighting the regime. Thank you!

So far, no luck finding any information about rallies in the Denver area, but I'll keep looking. If I find one, I'll be there!

Yesterday:

“All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.”

President George W. Bush
Second Inaugural Speech
January 20, 2005

Today

Obama repeated Tuesday at a news conference his "deep concerns" about the disputed balloting. He said he believes the ayatollah's decision to order an investigation "indicates he understands the Iranian people have deep concerns."

But at the same time, Obama said it would not be helpful if the United States was seen by the world as "meddling" in the issue.

Times have changed. How sad. How shameful.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tiananmen in Tehran

Posted by Richard on June 16, 2009

They shot pro-democracy demonstrators in Tehran yesterday. The Mousavi campaign called off a protest rally today because they were warned that riot squads would be using live ammunition. And vote counts allegedly leaked by someone in the interior ministry put Ahm-a-doin-a-jihad in third place:

The statistics, circulated on Iranian blogs and websites, claimed Mr Mousavi had won 19.1 million votes while Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won only 5.7 million.

The two other candidates, reformist Mehdi Karoubi and hardliner Mohsen Rezai, won 13.4 million and 3.7 million respectively. The authenticity of the leaked figures could not be confirmed.

No one actually knows how many have been killed, beaten, and arrested, or in how many other cities the demonstrations have been taking place. Foreign journalists (and Iranians working for them) are essentially under "house arrest," ordered to cover these events by watching the state-run TV reports from their hotel rooms.

So much for the wishful thinking of President Obama, who seemed so sure last Friday that his Cairo speech had changed the world, but who this week has decided to "withhold comment" (as Biden put it):

The clenched fist of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in his suspect return to power, has not only delivered a blow to freedom-seeking Iranians; it is also knocking the Obama administration for a loop — primarily because the president has chosen not to stand with Iranians who seek "a future of peace and dignity."

The administration was obviously rooting for Ahmadinejad to be beaten by his chief rival, former Iranian prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi. The president on Friday, the day of the election, spoke of "a robust debate taking place in Iran" bringing with it "new possibilities" and "the possibility of change."

How naive those words sound in retrospect. Presidential wishful thinking has crashed head-on into Islamofascist reality.

Europeans have condemned Iran's repressive regime, but apparently the Obama administration — true to its post-modernist, morally relativist, politically correct intellectual roots — doesn't want to be seen as taking sides between a brutal theocracy and people yearning for their basic human rights. It doesn't want anyone to think we might meddle in Iran's affairs — in this new era of hopenchange, the U.S. only meddles in the affairs of pro-Western democracies like Israel.

This brutal repression of Iranians' desire for freedom and democracy is unfolding less than two weeks after the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, with its iconic image of a lone brave man standing in front of a line of tanks. Yesterday's big demonstration (and the shootings) took place in Azadi (Freedom) Square — a fitting location with a more meaningful name than Tiananmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace).

Tehran 24 has striking pictures and video from the last few days. Among many from Saturday, this compelling image reminiscent of Tiananmen stood out:

defiant woman in Tehran

 My thoughts are with this courageous woman and all the brave freedom-loving people of Iran. I'd like to think that behind the scenes, stealthily, the U.S. is providing at least some support to the pro-democracy forces — but with this administration, it's highly unlikely.

For more news and commentary on Iran, check out The Spirit of Man and the Foundation for Democracy in Iran. The latter has called on Obama for support (emphasis in original): 

The Foundation for Democracy in Iran has written to President Barack Hussein Obama, urging him to stand up for America's principles and avoid the error made by President Clinton in 1999, when he washed his hands of the student uprising in Iran, claiming that America could do nothing."Mr. President, America can do much, as you and your supporters said repeatedly during your election campaign. For starters, America should continue to hold up the beacon of liberty that Iranians look to with such longing – not put it under a shroud," the letter states.

The FDI does not call on the United States to support any particular group or party inside Iran, but instead calls on the president to "assert America’s moral authority in defense of freedom."

Above all, the letter calls on President Obama "to refuse to recognize the imposter regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and to muster world opinion to neutralize him behind an international cordon sanitaire until he crumbles from isolation and neglect. Download a PDF of the letter.

I hope they're not holding their breaths. By Obama's reckoning, America has no moral authority, and championing liberty and human rights for Iranians would be "imposing our way of life" on the government thugs descending on that brave woman above.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The student who saved Venezuela

Posted by Richard on May 20, 2008

Belated congratulations to Yon Goicoechea. Last week, the Cato Institute awarded him the 2008 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. Goicoechea is a 23-year-old law student in Venezuela. About a year ago, Hugo Chavez shut down the most popular TV station in the country, Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). In response, Goicoechea organized a student movement to defend democracy and human rights that soon spread far beyond Venezuela's campuses. 

Despite death threats, intimidation by Chavez goons, and a beating that left him with a broken nose, Goicoechea organized scores of peaceful protests, many of which drew more than 100,000 participants. Many people credit Goicoechea with being personally responsible for the defeat of the December constitutional referendum that would have given Chavez dictatorial powers.

“Yon Goicoechea is making an extraordinary contribution to liberty,” said Edward Crane, President of the Cato Institute. “We hope the Friedman Prize will help further his non-violent advocacy for basic freedoms in an increasingly militaristic and anti-democratic Venezuela.”
 
Renowned Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa remarked, “Freedom and complacency are incompatible and this is what we are seeing now in countries like Venezuela where freedom is disappearing little by little, and this has produced a very healthy and idealistic reaction among young people. I think Yon Goicoechea is a symbol of this democratic reaction when freedom is threatened.”

The Friedman Prize is more than something to display on the mantle — it's $500,000. I hope Goicoechea had the money deposited in a U.S. (or other non-Venezuelan) bank account. Just in case Chavez carries his penchant for nationalization beyond foreign oil companies. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Happy 60th, Israel!

Posted by Richard on May 8, 2008

In the Hebrew calendar, May 8 is 3 Iyar, 5768, and Yom HaAtzma'ut — Israel Independence Day. Sixty years ago (it was May 14, 1948, in the Western calendar), the British lowered their flag and withdrew from Palestine, and the Jewish community, led by David Ben Gurion, declared the independence of the state of Israel:

The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.

Exiled from Palestine, the Jewish people remained faithful to it in all countries of their dispersion, never ceasing to hope and pray for their return and the restoration of their national freedom.

Accordingly, we, the members of the National Council, representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the Zionist movement of the world, met together in solemn assembly today, the day of the termination of the British Mandate over Palestine, by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish people and the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine to be called Israel.

For 57 years (until the Iraqis adopted a democratic constitution on Dec. 15, 2005), Israel was the only democratic state in the Middle East. It's far from perfect, and far too socialist from my perspective. But its 60-year history is a remarkable and uplifting story. The Israelis have indeed made the desert bloom, and they've created a modern society full of world-class science, technology, business, and industry out of nothing. They achieved this despite their lack of natural resources, socialist tendencies, and a crushing defense burden because — unlike their neighbors — they embrace Reason and the Enlightenment.

The population of Israel is about 7.3 million, and almost 1.5 million of them are Arabs. Those Arab citizens of Israel have more freedom, opportunity, and human rights than the citizens of any of its Arab neighbors.

Happy birthday, Israel! Please join me in signing the world's largest virtual birthday card to honor this occasion. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hope for Venezuela

Posted by Richard on December 3, 2007

Venezuela's voters have rejected Hugo Chavez's attempt to become the next Fidel Castro of Latin America:

CARACAS, Venezuela: Voters in Venezuela defeated a contentious referendum that would have given President Hugo Chávez sweeping new powers, the Election Commission announced early Monday.

The results were a stunning defeat for a leader who was trying to extend already broad powers and lead his country in a radical new direction.

The commission said 50.7 percent voted against the referendum and 49.3 percent voted in favor. The results were all the more surprising given that Chávez and his supporters control nearly all of the levers of power.

"The result is quarrelsome," Vice President Jorge Rodríguez said in comments broadcast on national television.

Opposition leaders were more upbeat. "Tonight, Venezuela has won," said Manuel Rosales, governor of Zulia State and the opposition's candidate in presidential elections last year.

Chavez's many high-profile American supporters, including Sean Penn, Naomi Campbell, Danny Glover, and Kevin Spacey, don't seem to have helped him. Asshats. 

All the pre-election polls not paid for by the Chavez regime indicated about a 10-point advantage for the "No" vote, so the narrow loss suggests that the actual results were so overwhelmingly anti-Chavez that the usual cheating couldn't fully offset them. Even though representatives of the "No" side were apparently prevented from witnessing the vote counting. I credit Jimmy Carter, who in 2000 and especially in 2004 legitimized what were clearly fraudulent election results. This time, he was absent. Thank you, Mr. Carter (you contemptible POS). 

For now, there is hope that Venezuela will avoid becoming yet another Stalinist state. Assuming Chavez allows these results to stand. For the latest news, check out The Devil's Excrement, Venezuela News and Views, and Caracas Chronicles.

Bravo! 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »